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Russia's New Secure Android Tablet Keeps Data From Google 127

Posted by timothy
from the da-ist-gut dept.
wiredmikey writes "It seems Russia's defense ministry doesn't trust Google's tablet computers: a new Android device presented to a top Russian government official boasts encryption and works with software and a global positioning system made in Russia, the AFP reports. The OS has all the functional capabilities of an Android operating system but none of its hidden features that send users' private data to Google, addressing concerns that data stored by Google could slip into the hands of the US government and expose some of their most secret and sensitive communications. Two versions of the tablet will supposedly be made — one for consumers and one for defense needs."
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Russia's New Secure Android Tablet Keeps Data From Google

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    In Soviet Rusia all your data belong to US!

    • In US (Score:5, Funny)

      by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @03:54AM (#41198171) Journal

      In US all you data still belong to US!

      • Re:In US (Score:5, Insightful)

        by houghi (78078) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @04:18AM (#41198231)

        In Soviet Russia, the government protects your privacy.
        (Head LITERALLY explodes!)

        • Re:In US (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 01, 2012 @05:27AM (#41198365)

          They're protecting the data from Google, that doesn't mean that they aren't themselves receiving that data and more. Not that I necessarily think that's happening, although it would be expected of any government that was going out of its way to do this.

          • by Shavano (2541114)

            They're protecting the data from Google, that doesn't mean that they aren't themselves receiving that data and more.

            It couldn't possibly be more. Google knows when and where you pee.

        • Re:In US (Score:4, Funny)

          by mwvdlee (775178) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @05:43AM (#41198423) Homepage

          In the US, the government claims to protect your privacy as well.

        • Re:In US (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Shavano (2541114) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @09:12AM (#41199003)

          They're not protecting YOUR privacy. They're protecting the Russian government's privacy from Google. I don't see why anybody would be surprised by this at all. Instead, information channels keep the Russian government's central servers informed what their defense employees are doing with their phones.

          The Russian consumer grade product probably also keeps the government servers (possibly separate from the military servers to keep the civilians out of the military's business) informed about what the consumers are doing with their phones.

        • by swillden (191260)

          In Soviet Russia, the government protects your privacy. (Head LITERALLY explodes!)

          Is Russia using snipers to protect privacy? How does that work?

  • by fph il quozientatore (971015) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @03:44AM (#41198141) Homepage

    one for consumers and one for defense needs

    As in, a public one that sends all data to Yandex and a secret one that does not?

  • What about FSB? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coder111 (912060) <{coder} {at} {rrmail.com}> on Saturday September 01, 2012 @03:50AM (#41198155)
    Right, so this tablet does keep data away from google. What about russian FSB?

    --Coder
    • Re:What about FSB? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @04:07AM (#41198205) Homepage Journal

      You're right! Using this means there might be another intelligence agency monitoring your activities besides just the CIA.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe given the downward spiral since Bush(ido), its preferable to take one's chances with the FSB... question of who do you trust less/more. Go figure.

      These capchas are spooky on slashdot - this one is "predicts". So maybe the above is a prophecy!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Unless Russia has no copyright laws whatsoever, their Android version is still free software and will have to be released, at least to the people buying the consumer version. So I assume one could do a simple diff and see what they have changed.

      • That would be great, since it would mean those nice Russians did all the hard work of identifying the evil spying functions for us hackers to remove ;-)
      • by LiENUS (207736)
        They have to release changes to the kernel but Android isn't GPL it's actually released under the Apache license which does not require source release.
      • Unless Russia has no copyright laws whatsoever, their Android version is still free software and will have to be released, at least to the people buying the consumer version. So I assume one could do a simple diff and see what they have changed.

        And the diff will show that in the consumer version all that changed is that google URLs and IP addresses were replaced with Kremlin URLs and IP addresses. There is no objection to monitoring consumers, just who receives the data.

      • except the one that reports back to the Kremlin will be the one released, the other one will be for internal use thus not subject to gpl copy left, secondly very little of android is copyleft most is apache licensed, so they don't have to give much back anyway. And as for the rushian government respecting US copyright law when has that ever stopped them before, they have hundereds of piracy sites hosted there, and since when has it been safe to run anything downloaded from rushia? all in all this is not goi

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      GOST encryption standards, often required to supply equipment to certain markets inside Russia, are very favorable to FSB in their design. This isn't even particularly sneakily implemented; for anyone with slightest amount of understanding on cryptography it's obvious that this is the case. I am not entirely certain what has been more important to Russian officials setting up these requirements, though: ability to decrypt actions of officials and certain organizations of national interest, or protectionism

      • by gdy (708914)

        This isn't even particularly sneakily implemented; for anyone with slightest amount of understanding on cryptography it's obvious that this is the case.

        Prooflink?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Probably none [wikipedia.org]. In fact, it seems to be doing pretty good for a standard from 1989. There are criticisms, but this - "There is not much published cryptanalysis of GOST, but a cursory glance says that it seems secure (Schneier, 1996; Vitaly V. Shorin, Vadim V. Jelezniakov and Ernst M. Gabidulin, 2001)" - pretty much contradicts his "it's obvious that this is the case".

          Nevertheless, he's modded up - no need for prooflinks when it's about government conspiracies, right?

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      This is why every country should have a similar program, at least for their officials. I don't understand why it is so hard to get? Russia and China does that. When will European countries get it too?
    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      What about russian FSB?

      The question is, who do you fear more, Google or FSB?

      I'll have to give that some thought.

      • by d3ac0n (715594)

        The question is, who do you fear more, Google or FSB?

        I'll have to give that some thought.

        Hmmm....

        Google: Might sell my personal data to annoying advertisers or cancel an account if I upset them.

        FSB: Polonium poisoning.

        Seems obvious to me.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          Google: Might sell my personal data to annoying advertisers or cancel an account if I upset them.

          FSB: Polonium poisoning.

          Polonium poisoning of one man vs the dissemination of personal information of billions. The creation of a permanent privacy-invading regime without limits vs a dying police state regime.

          I'm still thinking.

          • by swillden (191260)

            Polonium poisoning of one man vs the dissemination of personal information of billions

            Who has Google disseminated personal information to?

        • by swillden (191260)

          Google: Might sell my personal data to annoying advertisers or cancel an account if I upset them.

          Or not, actually. Google doesn't sell personally-identifiable data to anyone, and the hullabaloo about account cancellations was never true (at least if you're talking about complete cancellation, e.g. gmail, etc.); it was conflation of stories about people whose Google+ accounts were shut down for name policy violation with some guy whose account was completely shut off because he was using it to distribute kiddie porn.

          So, to be more accurate, you should say "Google: Will use my personal data to show m

    • They don't really need [wikipedia.org] a special tablet for that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 01, 2012 @03:50AM (#41198159)

    Can we have an EU version, that keeps data within Europe, not like the EU version that hands all our banking data over to the USA when asked, one that respects OUR privacy?

    Sounds like a good idea to me.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      BS, the only banking records that were handed over were to accounts controlled by American citizens. And those were only demanded because Switzerland was known to be aiding and abetting US citizens evading US taxes. Switzerland could have opted to hold to their principles and end up on the list that the US keeps of countries that American banks can't do business with.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 01, 2012 @05:36AM (#41198401)

        Switzerland is not the EU. He's talking about the other EU countries among which The Netherlands which got most of the banking data handed over to the US.

        So yeah, your BS is BS.

      • by PPH (736903)

        BS, the only banking records that were handed over were to accounts controlled by American citizens.

        Without warrants. No person or company, either foreign or domestic, has any business handing records over to US law enforcement without a warrant.

        And those were only demanded because Switzerland was known to be aiding and abetting US citizens evading US taxes.

        So, get a warrant.

    • The answer is NO. Next question
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @09:06AM (#41198991) Journal
      How about a corporate version that only passes data to servers owned and controlled by your in-house IT staff? I'd have thought that there would be a market for this, but it's one that device makers, not Google, would have an incentive to fill.
    • by ukemike (956477)
      It's open source. Go for it.
    • by aliquis (678370)

      "I head Android is open-source, why don't you write it yourself?" / Generic asshole reply.

  • by Coward Anonymous (110649) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @03:59AM (#41198183)

    I think I'd rather have my data go to Google rather than the Kremlin...

    • by notknown86 (1190215) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @04:03AM (#41198197)
      It shouldn't be an either/or... Why isn't "neither" an option?
      • by Coward Anonymous (110649) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @04:07AM (#41198203)

        Because your vendors are Google or the Kremlin. I didn't create the choices.

      • Android is an open source OS built on the Linux Kernel. You're welcome to take it and build the notknown86OS suitable for installing on whatever device you like which meets this "neither" need, and sharing it with the wider world as long as you adhere to the license requirements. If you do it well, fame will be yours. If you sell it well, fortune too. Unless there is no demand for this feature.

        • Re:So do it (Score:5, Informative)

          by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @05:25AM (#41198361)

          If you do it well, fame will be yours. If you sell it well, fortune too. Unless there is no demand for this feature.

          Oh no, there is a demand for this feature. There are even a few Android ROMs that have this feature. Personally, I had such a ROM installed for about a week, before I gave up on it and reverted to a different ROM. As it turns out, the Googe Maps/Navigation auto-complete feature is much easier and more convenient to use if your phone doesn't have short-term amnesia between uses. And yes, I admit it. I am trading privacy for convenience and ease of use. Thought, I don't mind it.

          If you just browse the xda forums a little bit, you'll see that there are many people that care about privacy, and are willing to pay the price of privacy in terms of ease of use and convenience, much more than I do. So do not take my example as proof that there is no demand, there is actually a demand. It's just that there is already plenty of existing grassroots competition for that kind of feature in the rooted custom-ROM Android ecosystem.

        • by Sique (173459)

          You mean: contributing to CyanogenMod? [cyanogenmod.com]

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @04:27AM (#41198249)

      As an American, I already use Baidu for search. I might as well buy myself a tablet that phones home to he Kremlin. For the things that I'm doing on the internet, I'm much more afraid of the American mafia than the Chinese triads, or the Russian mob. Of course, your circumstances will vary. If I was in China, I would probably be avoiding Baidu. And if I was in Russia, I'd probably avoid any churches where singing was going on.

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        And if I was in Russia, I'd probably avoid any churches where singing was going on.

        nice reference..

        • by Sulphur (1548251)

          And if I was in Russia, I'd probably avoid any churches where singing was going on.

          nice reference..

          That's a Riot.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Except that Baidu is Bing for their English language search result. Microsoft paid them to use Bing, probably just to give Ballmer a 'market share boost' in something so he can keep his job, but maybe for something more sinister.

        So you may think you're avoiding the US corporate Mafia, but actually you're not.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/04/microsoft-bing-baidu-china-english_n_889829.html

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      Exactly what changes are required to keep the information from Google/? My understanding is that unless you install the Google apps (email, maps, contacts, etc), no data goes to Google anyway. Certainly CyanogenMod works like this.

    • by jo42 (227475)

      I'd rather have my data go to Google

      So you'd rather have your data end up in the hands of the Gooberment of the United States of Dumbtardia?

      The proper choice is 3) None of the above.

    • So that Google can sell your data to the Kremlin?
  • by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @04:03AM (#41198195)

    Why is this even news? Even China did the same. It would be irresponsible not to.

    For Russia, it's the North Pole. And for China, it was the Tibet. If you let an American company suddenly do your mapping for you, or tell you where you're standing with their satellites, then you might as well kiss whatever new territory you just claimed an hour ago good bye.

    It's a steep slippery slope. One day, the North pole is gone. The next day, Moscow is part of Alaska. And your average citizen doesn't have a clue because he's too busy drinking vodka and industrial alcohol and looking at his phone for gps directions.

    • by tokul (682258)
      On the next day we have world war three and pepsi costs three kopecks after the war.
    • If you let an American company suddenly do your mapping for you, or tell you where you're standing with their satellites, then you might as well kiss whatever new territory you just claimed an hour ago good bye.

      You jest, but 1200^2 KM of my nation's land is listed in the CIA Factbook as belonging to an aggressive enemy who has not set foot there in 45 years. Therefore I cannot use FOSS maps such as Marble, but rather must use Google Earth. I regularly visit and have friends in that area, and my photo-organising software (Digikam) lists those photos (GPS-tagged) as being in a hostile nation.

    • because he's too busy drinking vodka and industrial alcohol and looking at his phone for gps directions.

      It's GLONASS, comrade.

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Saturday September 01, 2012 @04:18AM (#41198227) Homepage

    Will they honour their GPL obligations and make the source code available ?

    • Re:Source code ? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 01, 2012 @04:33AM (#41198277)

      Will they honour their GPL obligations and make the source code available ?

      Android is licensed with Apache 2.0 mostly, so they'd only be obliged to release the source code for any kernel modifications they might have made.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @04:33AM (#41198275)
    Great - now we have a choice. We can trust Google and the US government or we can trust the Russian government .. Oh wait!
  • "There is nothing like this operating system on the market. It is hack-proof," Mikhailov claimed. "There are people who are clamouring for this."

    (emphasis mine)

    I can see this going over juuuust fine.

    Or maybe he thinks that all the good hackers are russian and won't touch it because they "love their country" or something?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have to agree with other posters as to why this is a news item.

    Firstly, for defence and state purposes, why would you rely on a private company, whether it is foreign or not, for essential services? You would want that in-house to ensure it's stability. Secondly, for the consumer version, why would Russia not want to cultivate a home-grown ICT sector by using local companies services rather than a foreign company?

  • Too many governments (and busineses) trust US hosting like Amazon or US software companies and don't realise they're basically handing all their data over to the US government. Data should not be stored in the US.
  • Is it accessible to ordinary individuals? Would it be possible to use something like Cyanogen or some apps to completely prevent any data from your Android phone being sent to evil Google?
    • by ZosX (517789)

      Yes, but it would break a lot of the functionality of your phone. No more email updates (if you use gmail at least), Maps wouldn't remember any of your previous locations. Etc etc. Google has a ton of stuff baked into android that completely revolves around your google account. None of that information is stored locally. Google at least lets you managed what data they store on you. Its not google I would be worrying about. Its the fed that is building huge databases on american citizens.....

      • by mattr (78516)

        Not that I will hold my breath but it would be nice if someone legislated a requirement that an open API be provided that lets the user specify a repository for this data on a server of his or her choice. Would make mining me less valuable for google but the alternative would be for different countries to all pester google for their own versions. It would be interesting if there was a way to secure the OS for the user like this so-called milspec unit (I suppose it uses a repository in the Russian military w

  • From the beginning of their history, the Russian approach to foreign technology has always been adapting, but isolate at the same time. They choose their own alphabet and their own railroad gauge. They even had ternary computers. The idea is that foreigners and nationals only can share information and goods through the state.

    • Re:Tipical russian (Score:4, Informative)

      by chilvence (1210312) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @08:16AM (#41198815)

      They did not choose their own alphabet, their choice of church did it for them centuries ago, and it is actually a lot closer to the greek alphabet than the latin one ( which was, if I remember right, an offshoot of a western greek variant.) So if you want a reason for all that, blame Greece! :)

      The fact is though, that at least objectively, the cyrillic alphabet is better than the latin one, having much less ambiguity and more letters for things such as 'sh 'kh' 'ch' etc. The only failing it has is that it uses letters similair to latin letters to mean completely different things, which leads to an inevitable amount of brain bonk when you are trying to learn it.

      • by gr8dude (832945)

        > The only failing it has is that it uses letters similair to
        > latin letters to mean completely different things, which
        > leads to an inevitable amount of brain bonk when you
        > are trying to learn it.
        Yeah, this can be tricky.

        To a beginner this feels like looking at code that has `#define True False` somewhere in the fine-print.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Russia tried to be open, but was historically seen as a place to collect slaves, sell expensive products and mine for cheap.
      Russia tried to trade but as Peter the Great found out it was not much fun trying to send out trade missions and been told NO.
      400 years plus of this and a few invasions has made Russia wise and very creative.
      Sell and buy on own terms. Study the tech so you are never dependant on outsiders as they can up the price or stop exporting at any time.
      The CIA and NSA have also had a long h
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You need to install the Google services separately, so the google-free android is not a big achievement.

  • Good idea for the Russians, they should avoid syncing their state secrets to the cloud. They better be sure that there are no back doors left in, but they probably use Windows too. I don't think even the CIA would use basic Android for their spies.

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      Good idea for the Russians, they should avoid syncing their state secrets to the cloud. They better be sure that there are no back doors left in, but they probably use Windows too. I don't think even the CIA would use basic Android for their spies.

      I think spies would use standard phones because weird phone would blow their cover. They would just know not to discuss their spying activities on email, text message or voice. The professional spies would know how to send encrypted data on public channels back to their agency or handlers.

      If I were running the CIA, I'd send all my intel back to HQ using Pastebin or something like that, and my best sources would look to all the world like notorious hackers who somehow evade being apprehended...

      Or I'd encod

  • by gavron (1300111) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @09:17AM (#41199025)

    The first thing we learn in security training is that if you don't want your data found,
    make sure there's no such data to begin with. If you read nothing else, read the paragraph
    following this one, and the last one.

    People's personal devices are being used to spy on them on a regular basis. In the US it
    was recently rules your smartphone CAN and WILL be used against you without a warrant.
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/08/federal-court-rules-cops-can-warantlessly-track-suspects-via-cellphone/ [arstechnica.com]

    In Russia it was recently rules you don't need a smartphone to go to jail for "free expression"
    only in a church.
    http://articles.cnn.com/2012-08-17/world/world_europe_russia-pussy-riot-trial_1_band-members-nadezhda-tolokonnikova-russian-court [cnn.com]

    Now that we've covered the facts, more facts are that your smartphone DOES send information
    about you SOMEWHERE. Be it google (standard US Android device, data sending enabled) or
    Mother Russia (Russian version of Android device) if you have GPS enabled and outbound data
    sending enabled... someone out there has access to the data, whether or not they keep it,
    catalog it, database[ify] it, store it, or analyze it [later].

    If you want your information to be kept private... KEEP IT PRIVATE. That means don't use a device that
    sends that information ANYWHERE ELSE. Even if you think it "shouldn't" send it somewhere it MAY.
    MAY is a percentage between 0 and 100% that if you can't afford it should be ALWAYS zero.

    GPS -there are plenty of devices that will plot your location, show you a route to a destination, and have
    no capability for transmission.

    PHONE -there are plenty of phones that WILL GIVE YOUR LOCATION TO CELL COMPANIES WHICH
    IN THE USE WILL GIVE THEM to law enforcement without a warrant.
    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/08/warrantless-gps-phone-tracking/ [wired.com]
    Feel free to have your phone either OFF or covered in a Faraday cage (aluminum foil works) until you must use it.

    DATA -there is no way you can use data [which requires bidirectional packet flow] without giving away your
    location unless you are using a local WiFi hotspot.

    In short... in summary... put your smartphone into airplane-mode. Turn on wifi-only (android phones will allow
    you to enable WiFi in airplane-mode but will leave other radios disabled). Use local hotspots. Don't install
    applications that require "access to the physical device such as speaker or microphone or location-based information"... ...and welcome to the 21st Century.

    E

    • GPS -there are plenty of devices that will plot your location, show you a route to a destination, and have
      no capability for transmission.

      Care to mention any specific devices. The ones I have seen always carry a cellphone device that helps them acquire A-GPS data (the data that makes acquiring GPS lock much easier and faster). They also transmit "anonymized" statistics back to the GPS company, every month or so.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @09:35AM (#41199083) Homepage Journal

    They don't trust Google, so they made their own stuff.

    I dont see a problem with it at all.

  • New distro (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Clsid (564627) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @01:02PM (#41200207)

    It would be nice to have a group create a version of Android that doesn't report back anywhere. To be honest, one of the reasons I don't like to use Google products is that you always have this feeling that you don't even know when you are being tracked, but if it has the Google logo somewhere they will try real hard to do it. I get it, they are for-profit corporation and that's the way to get their revenue but I rather pay or use open source software whenever I can. It isn't funny how many people are willing to let go of their privacy because of a free product/service (think rebates).

  • This was one of the main problems I had with Android, may have to consider running this build sometime in the future as my N900 gets older and older..

  • Russian made and so appeals to everyone. The commissars in Kremlin and the ultra nationalistic, racist everyman. Whats not to like about this? OK

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